WILMINGTON, Del. -- The head of Delaware's Republican party questioned Friday why Attorney General Beau Biden, a Democrat, did not know about a plea bargain that allowed a du Pont family heir to avoid prison for raping his young daughter.
Biden's statement in a Thursday letter to The News Journal that he ran for attorney general to protect children from harm is "simply inconsistent" with his spokesman's earlier assertion that Biden was unaware of what should have been a "high-profile" case, said John Fluharty, executive director of the state GOP.
Biden's office had originally indicted Robert H. Richards IV in 2008 on two counts of second-degree rape for sexually assaulting his daughter from age 3 1/2 to almost 5, charges that carried a minimum of 20 years in prison. But that June, Richards was allowed to plead guilty to one count of fourth-degree rape. A prosecutor urged the judge to sentence Richards to probation, and Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden did, giving him an eight-year suspended sentence.
Richards, who turned 48 Thursday, is the great-grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont and the son of Robert H. Richards III, a retired partner in the Richards Layton & Finger law firm.
His case gained publicity last month when his ex-wife, Tracy, filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the rape of his daughter and the alleged sexual abuse of his toddler son. Police have said they investigated claims about the boy in 2010 and did not file charges, but said the investigation is reopened in the wake of the the lawsuit's allegations.
Fluharty said the case should have been sent to the highest level of the Delaware Department of Justice for no other reason than to let Biden weigh in or know about a deal to let a descendant of two prominent families avoid prison.
During that period, Fluharty wrote, "the Biden family was focused on Joe Biden's run for the White House, and his posturing to be selected as the Democrat's vice presidential nominee in 2008," Fluharty suggested.
"The question needs to be asked if the Attorney General was focused more on his family's national political agenda rather doing the job of Attorney General in late 2007 and 2008? Further, why was the Attorney General not aware of this high profile case which resulted in his office striking a plea deal? Was this just gross incompetence on his part?"
Biden, first elected in 2006 over Republican Ferris Wharton, was re-elected in 2010 and is up for re-election again in November. Republicans have not yet announced a candidate against him.
Biden did not respond to requests for comment on Fluharty's remarks, and his spokesman Joseph Rogalsky said the office would not address the GOP's allegations.
State Democratic Party chairman John Daniello, however, said in a written response that the GOP's claims were "baseless."
Then-Sen. Joe Biden had announced his candidacy for the presidency in early 2007 and Beau Biden had introduced his father as presidential nominee Barack Obama's vice presidential pick at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008.
Daniello wrote that during the "fall of 2008, instead of campaigning for his father and soon-to-be President Obama, Beau was pre-deployed to Texas en route to the war in Iraq. He served on active duty until September 2009."
Beau Biden, who has not given any interviews about the Richards' case, on Thursday broke a two-week silence by writing to The News Journal that the case against Richards a weak one that called for a plea bargain so he could be convicted of a felony sex crime.